Holi Festival: Traditional Indian festival helps UNCA welcome spring

By Alex Milstein – [email protected] – Staff Writer
Powdered paint colored the air as UNC Asheville students welcomed the spring season with the Holi Festival of India on the quad.
Wesley Stevens, president of the UNCA Religious Studies Club, said the Asheville Students Interested in Asia group and the Religious Studies Club worked together to bring the event to campus.
“UNCA prides itself on having a world perspective. We have humanities, rather than just some old white guy spouting classics,” said Stevens. “We only have about 3 percent of non-whites at UNCA, and we don’t have racial scholarships, which I really think we should. We are really trying to create an experience that is fun and familiarizes people with other cultures and other religions.”
Holi Festival participants were given powdered paint to playfully throw at each other, creating a rainbow of colors resembling the colors of spring.
“We are not just about educating people, we also want to have fun. So we thought we would give it back in one of the most ridiculous ways possible,” Stevens said. “Each year we have done it, we have had to double the food and paint supplies. This year we had the biggest turnout yet. It was great.”
John Fate Faherty, a senior philosophy and religious student at UNCA, and secretary of the Religious Studies Club, said Holi celebrations are common outside of India.

Photo by Ricky Emmons - Photography Editor. Sophomore Leigh Whittaker escapes the Holi Festival with a colorful face.
Photo by Ricky Emmons – Photography Editor. Sophomore Leigh Whittaker escapes the Holi Festival with a colorful face.

“Holi is usually very close to the spring equinox, as it is the celebration of welcoming in spring and its colors,” Faherty said.
The festival is held on other college campuses as well, and Faherty said this event greatly helps diversify college students.
“It’s a good cultural event because it gives you a taste of something new, while at the same time being a little more interesting than a lecture. It’s something that can very easily expose you to a different type of operation that you are not used to, but in a really fun way. Except for maybe a couple of carpets in the library, nothing was harmed from the paint,” Faherty said.
Ashley Hunt, a senior religious studies student at UNCA, explained the importance of Holi festival at a school like UNCA.
“I think what is special about the Holi Festival is just that it is a lot of fun. Students are able to learn about a different culture as well as doing an activity that people in India do. There’s a lot of spirit in it and I believe that is why it’s really fun for college campuses,” Hunt said.
Hunt said being able to participate this year felt good, and she regrets being unable to attend the festival last year.
“I hope people will take part in it next year and that it continues to grow. It is really a lot of fun,” Hunt said.